Playground Budget

Managing a playground budget doesn't have to be difficult.

In last week’s post, Commercial Playground Planning, we discussed the basics of commercial playground planning. This week we’re focusing on the less fun part: money. Budgeting for a playground might seem daunting at first, but with a little bit of research, it can be a fairly painless process.

When budgeting for a playground, consider the following:

  1. What it will cost
  2. Necessities
  3. What you want
  4. Money you have
  5. Money you need

What it will Cost

Starting right off with one of the most difficult questions of the article. Take a moment and picture a playground. You’ll likely picture a slide, climbers, maybe a spinner, some musical instruments, and swings. As you think of that picture, you’ll automatically fill in what’s on the ground, any seating, trash cans, small walls to hold in safety materials, and maybe even a water fountain.

Playground equipment is only a small portion of the cost for the entire project. Ironically, the ground covering, whether it is wood mulch, rubber mulch, poured in place rubber safety surface, or artificial grass, is typically one of the most expensive portions of the project. Here is a rough percentage breakdown of what you might be expecting to pay:

Product: 20 – 50%
Surfacing: 20 – 50%
Installation: 22 – 40%
Freight: 7 – 15%

That might seem all over the place because each percentage is a range. However, that is because you have control over where your money goes for the most part. Freight is typically a fairly static cost, while product and surfacing fluctuates wildly depending upon where you put more of the money.

Making a playground fun on a budget is easy!

Now that you have an idea of how your money will portion off, it is time to talk about requirements. There are certain things that your playground must have to be safe. You’ll need:

  • Equipment that meets or exceeds ASTM standards
  • Safety surfacing

That might not seem like much, but they’re essential and the costs can appear hidden. When looking at equipment, look for the IPEMA certification or use a dealer that only stocks equipment from IPEMA certified manufacturers. Playground Outfitters is dedicated to making your purchasing process as easy as possible which is why all of our manufacturers are IPEMA members in good standing. When you buy from us, you will receive quality products.

For safety surfacing, it is important to know what needs to be purchased with your surfacing. If you are purchasing a loose fill surfacing, like wood mulch or rubber mulch, you’ll need to also purchase playground borders and a geotextile cloth for drainage. With poured in place, you’ll need to be prepared for a long process as installation is dependent upon weather conditions. It is also one of the most expensive safety surfacing options.

What you want

Now that you’ve got a clearer idea of how to divide up your money, now comes the fun part: picking out what you will fit your criteria. I suggest taking all of the information that you put together last week and going through our website and selecting some products that fit your needs. Leave money to the side right now.

When looking at equipment, remember, that a playground can be put together in an infinite number of ways. While large central structures are nice, they are not a necessity for a playground. Multiple smaller pieces of equipment can be used to create a playground. For a more educationally focused playground, check out our outdoor classroom equipment. For the perfect preschool trike track landscape, check out the trike equipment. For older children, an obstacle course might be more engaging for them. Don’t let your imagination stop you at this point.

In a future post, we’ll discuss ways to help you narrow down your equipment choices.

Balancing your budget is important.Money that you have

Now is the time to look at how much money you currently have. Using the percentages from earlier as a guide, see how you can put your choices together into a playground. Most playgrounds are made up of a central structure, a climber or spinner, and a swing set. Musical instruments are also seen on the playground quite often. If you have a very limited budget, we recommend figuring out how much safety surfacing and related accessories will cost first. Since you have to have safety surfacing, this will be a limiting factor.

Do NOT worry if you don’t have enough money at this point. The main point of budgeting in this manner is figuring out what is important to you and your community in a playground. As the money gets allocated, you’ll quickly realize what is important.

Money that you need

Once you have your possible playground together with possible budgeting, you can take a look at what the difference is between how much you have and how much money you need. You’ll find yourself in one of three categories:

  • Having left over money
  • Having the perfect or near perfect amount of money
  • Needing more money

Most people will find themselves in the category of needing more money. As so many people are aware, there are two ways to solve this problem: cut costs or make more money. But there is a third option: spread out the payments. With this you can choose to finance it over a period of time or to phase it in.

Playground phasing is where you design a long term plan for your playground that builds it in little by little. Each time a new bit goes in, it becomes a larger playground, but it is always a fully functioning playground.

If you choose to make more money, there are lots of great ways to ask for donations, do fundraisers, or apply for grants.

Next week we’ll discuss how to cut costs effectively. If you do it right, you can end up with an awesome playground for a fraction of the cost!

We Can Help

At Playground Outfitters, we have certified playground safety inspectors that are here to help answer your questions. Contact us today for more help on your playground project!